Mith's Reviews > The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
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Feb 09, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: owned, absolutely-spiffing, slice-of-life
Read from September 27 to October 02, 2012

How (not) to read The Casual Vacancy :

1. DON'T read it just because it's written by JK Rowling.
2. DON'T expect it to be like Harry Potter - i.e, magic stuff. (Read the blurb, nimrod)
3. DON'T expect a murder mystery - it isn't one.
4. DON'T read it if you are not comfortable with the fact that the woman who might have moulded your childhood, is writing about drugs, teen sex, prostitution, rape etc. - this book isn't for you.
5. DON'T compare this with her previous works, for the love of God!

When it was announced that Jo Rowling was coming out with a new book, comparisons with the Harry Potter series were inevitable. No matter how many times, and in how many interviews, Jo insisted over and over again that 'THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER BOOK NOR IS IT ANYTHING LIKE IT', a small part inside every fan, desperate for another book in the series (understandably), hoped for it anyway.

(And so, when they were invariably proved wrong, there was backlash. Half the negative reviews on Goodreads are because it's 'not a Harry Potter book', which just pisses me off, so let's not go there)

The Casual Vacancy is as steeped in reality as the Harry Potter books are removed from it. There's nothing fantastical about the story - it's simple and plain, told by holding nothing back.

The characterization in this book is simply mind-blowing. Each and every one of the characters is so very real (I know this word's been thrown around a lot, but seriously, there's no other way to describe them) and has such depth! Through the course of the book, they are all ripped apart, dissected with unflinching honesty and laid bare for the readers to see. There are very few likable characters in the book, whom we can root for and hope that things work out for them eventually, but all of them end up earning our sympathies in the end.

People have said that the characters in this book are not relatable at all. I disagree. Which one of us hasn't felt like a victim of the circumstances - hopeless, unloved, desperate, bullied, frustrated, at the end of our tether - at some point in our lives? We are all in the pages of this book. It's just that our stories are different. I think Jo has expertly managed to capture and show the best and the worst of human behaviour in the book; the worst being the inability to see beyond ourselves and our petty problems, while the best being our capability to change ourselves.

Having said that, the biggest strength of the book is also, unfortunately, its biggest weakness. The setting up of the characters and their lives just takes too long. The plot, if you can call it that, begins to move ahead only after about 300 pages or so. Which was probably the reason why it took me this long to finish the book - I was plodding along until I was so caught up that I couldn't put the book down.

The final few pages of the book were brilliant and typically Jo - sad, yet beautiful and touching at the same time. I don't understand why people say the ending was abrupt. For me, there was absolute and complete closure which left me smiling and feeling content long after I finished reading (Always a sign of a good book!).

I would like to reiterate that 'The Casual Vacancy' will not be for everybody. Some of you will probably give up after the first hundred pages, others will crawl along because it's Jo, and in the hope that she might pull a rabbit out of her hat at the end and surprise you with something "magic-ky" (she doesn't). Quite a few of you will hate it, but that's probably because this not your genre and you only picked up this book because of Jo, so, in that case, it's not her, it's you.

With this book, Jo has proved beyond a doubt that she can WRITE no matter what the genre is, that she still has that magical ability to tap into some part of us, connect with us and make us care, despite ourselves. However, unlike the Harry Potter books, this book will probably not be changing any lives any time soon (it certainly didn't change mine), but I'm glad to have read it, nonetheless.
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Reading Progress

09/27/2012 page 0
0.0% "IT'S FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111111111111111111111111" 3 comments
09/27/2012 page 10
1.0% "It's still JKR writing this book (one can see traces of her dry wit throughout) but it's also so...NOT her." 3 comments
09/27/2012 page 23
4.0% "I'm having to pretend this is a different J.K.Rowling who wrote this book. My brain can't handle all the, um, adult stuff otherwise :-/" 4 comments
09/28/2012 page 74
14.0% "Is it just me, or does the character "Fats", seem to be inspired by Holden Caulfield?"
10/01/2012 page 293
58.0% "Everyone seems to have finished this book but me :(" 1 comment
10/01/2012 page 382
75.0% "FINALLY! The pace is beginning to pick up!" 2 comments
01/31/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 125) (125 new)


Sowmya's book world so many people are reading this book at a time :) from where did u order it?


Mith Sowmya's book world wrote: "so many people are reading this book at a time :) from where did u order it?"

Got it from Flipkart :)


message 3: by Pran (new) - added it

Pran K P Got a .mobi copy from a friend. So reading using my Kindle. But the book is not addictive...stopped reading it to start FIFA 13...I gotta resume reading.....
Is it good???
Reply after you've read more than half....


message 4: by Pran (new) - added it

Pran K P Wwow...didnt see the review...reading the review...


message 5: by Pran (new) - added it

Pran K P Just got Mark Of Athena....soooo excited....Now no resuming Casual Vacancy , until i finish MoA....


message 6: by Mith (last edited Oct 02, 2012 11:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith @Pranam - I liked this book quite a lot. The beginning is terribly slow but the pace picks up in the end. Like I said though, it's not for everybody. Read the blurb again and see if this is something you would have read if it weren't written by JK Rowling. That should give you an idea if you'll like it :)

And about MoA - just finished reading and reviewing it yesterday. It is AWESOME :D


message 7: by Pran (new) - added it

Pran K P Mith wrote: "@Pranam -

And about MoA - just finished reading and reviewing it yesterday. It is AWESOME :D "


Cool....Expecting a lot....It was a terribly long wait after 'The son of Neptune'........


Aruna Kumar Gadepalli I think the comments are valied


message 9: by Namratha (new)

Namratha Supremely brilliant review, Mith. I think that was one of the most unbiased and useful reviews that a 'should-I, shouldn't I' doubting Thomas could come across.


message 10: by Amit (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amit Hey u ripped off my review... Well atleast the one I had in my mind :-p Good review and totally valid


message 11: by Mith (last edited Oct 03, 2012 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Aruna Kumar wrote: "I think the comments are valied"

Thanks :)

Namratha wrote: "Supremely brilliant review, Mith. I think that was one of the most unbiased and useful reviews that a 'should-I, shouldn't I' doubting Thomas could come across."

That's high praise indeed, coming from you, Namz! :D Thanks!

Amit wrote: "Hey u ripped off my review... Well atleast the one I had in my mind :-p Good review and totally valid"

Great minds think alike, eh? ;) Still waiting for your review though!


message 12: by Amit (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amit After I finish Mark of Athena :-p


message 13: by Amit (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amit P.S. I went for an interview today and they made me write a review of the last book I had read, so I wrote about this one!


Donna This is a great review, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said about it. Even though this genre is not my thing at all, her writing, especially in the complexities of the characters, was undeniably brilliant. If anything is reminiscent of the Harry Potter series, it is that she can create such vivid and authentic personalities.


message 15: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Amit wrote: "P.S. I went for an interview today and they made me write a review of the last book I had read, so I wrote about this one!"

Now that you're done with MoA, where's your review? x-(

Donna wrote: "Even though this genre is not my thing at all, her writing, especially in the complexities of the characters, was undeniably brilliant. If anything is reminiscent of the Harry Potter series, it is that she can create such vivid and authentic personalities..."

I thought so too! Thanks Donna :)


Rachna I am still plodding through the character build up. Have to actually make myself read on to get to the good part


message 17: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Rachna wrote: "I am still plodding through the character build up. Have to actually make myself read on to get to the good part"

Stick to it! The ending is not too bad, depending on how you take it :)


message 18: by Keshav (new)

Keshav Kandhadai mukund excellently reviewed without revealing any plot points :) How do I get myself to read it though :|


message 19: by Kaye (krikabica) (new)

Kaye (krikabica) Fair review! Thanks!


Juliet Most accurate review of the book. It's my new favourite book, I like it more than Harry Potter, but yes, it takes a while until you can't let go of the book. But when I finished it, I nearly cried. I spent the day in shock and then just remembering all the little elements of it, of the characters and it's just, ngghhh, I love it so much! <3


Julie Fantastic review. Your words mirrored my thoughts exactly. Thank you!


message 22: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Just saying Ditto with all the positives. It's a shame you had to bold face it, but understandable. I spent a few minutes reading biased reviews with everyone thinking what you have to tell them not to do... Um frankly that scares me, are people that closed minded (scratch that..) .. Dumb?
I had this listed as a probably no because any articulate reviews I originally saw we're very negative, you've changed my mind. HP was great, but I'm an adult and also read adult books, sci fi, fantasy, trashy romances and pure fluff. Haven't read a classic in 15 years :D (stated proudly)


message 23: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Karen wrote: "Fair review! Thanks!"

Juliet wrote: "Most accurate review of the book..."

Julie wrote: "Fantastic review. Your words mirrored my thoughts exactly. Thank you!"

Thanks everybody! Glad you liked it :)

Cheryl wrote: "Just saying Ditto with all the positives. It's a shame you had to bold face it, but understandable. I spent a few minutes reading biased reviews with everyone thinking what you have to tell them no..."

Glad to know my review changed your mind! I had to bold-face those points because I got tired and annoyed of seeing disappointed reviews which said "I only picked this up because of Jo" or "I was expecting another HP book" or "I thought this was a murder-mystery" or "THIS IS NOTHING LIKE HARRY POTTER. BIG MISTAKE. DO NOT READ!!!!111"

(deep breaths)

Anyway, hope you enjoy the book when you do pick it up :)


message 24: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer My biggest gripe with the book is that the inclusion of sex, drugs, and alcohol, among other things, is what makes the book "adult". This is not true. I've read plenty of YA fiction that dealt with the same kinds of issues in this book. I'm not sure that Jo did it any better than those other authors though. I think she tried a bit too hard here. ^^'


message 25: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Jennifer wrote: "My biggest gripe with the book is that the inclusion of sex, drugs, and alcohol, among other things, is what makes the book "adult"..."

I'd like to respectfully disagree here, Jennifer. That's not true. You take away those things you mentioned above, from the story, and it still remains an adult book. As another reviewer on Goodreads pointed out - "Strip this novel of these words and it will still remain very much adult as it was before. It is the issues and situation that makes [the book] what it is."


message 26: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Mith wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "My biggest gripe with the book is that the inclusion of sex, drugs, and alcohol, among other things, is what makes the book "adult"..."

I'd like to respectfully disagree here, Jen..."


I may have worded that badly. To me, it seems like the main difference from Jo's writing in The Casual Vacancy and the writing in her previous works is the inclusion of sexuality and other such topics. You're right, there are still adult themes, and the target audience is adults--that makes it an adult book. But to me, it still reads like YA (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), and doesn't really stand out to me from other novels that are also marketed for adult readers.


Nilesh Kashyap Thanks Mith for linking my review.
And Jennifer, this book probably reads to you like a YA-novel because of Krystal (one of the most important character,though not a protagonist), a teenage girl fighting against all the odds in her life (this sounds like YA, doesn't it). But she just a part of a big picture, not the picture itself. And given so many negative reviews from exclusive YA readers, confirms for me that this is nothing like a YA-novel.


message 28: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Nilesh wrote: "Thanks Mith for linking my review.
And Jennifer, this book probably reads to you like a YA-novel because of Krystal (one of the most important character,though not a protagonist), a teenage girl fi..."


Actually, I'm not even that far yet. It has nothing to do with the characters, actually. It's the voice, the tone of the narrator. That's all ^^


Derek GREAT review!! Completely agree. Well said.


Nilesh Kashyap Wow, 200 crossed! Congrats! Good going Mith.


message 31: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Nilesh wrote: "Wow, 200 crossed! Congrats! Good going Mith."

:P Thanks Nilesh! If people think that it's half as insightful as your excellent review, then I'm happy :)


Nilesh Kashyap Stop being all so good. I like your review, does excellent job capturing what novel is exactly and what should be expected out of it.


Svetlana agree with every word!


Audrey ❦❦❦ I finished "The Causal Vacancy" yesterday, and I have a tremendous book hangover. I cried. I am still in mourning.


message 35: by Mith (last edited Nov 16, 2012 12:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Thanks everybody!

@Audrey - It's one of those books that lingers.. Will take you a few days to get over it :)


message 36: by Rifda (new) - added it

Rifda just like I guess :)


message 37: by Donna (new)

Donna Donovan I keep picking up the book, reading the first 50 pages then leaving it for a few weeks. It's not grabbing yet, but I long to read it.


Audrey ❦❦❦ Truly, the book doesn't get "grabby" until almost half way in, and then you are hooked.


message 39: by Archita (new) - added it

Archita Suryanarayanan I liked your review, the characters kept lingering on for me as well. As you said,.none of them were particularly likeable but you end up sympathising with them, and they leave you questioning the world.


Catherine I agree with you Mith....peolpe need to take each book as it's own, and not expect ot to be the same or in any way similar to any other book!!! Ihave it on my tbr list, and was planning to read it soon.
I mean, honestly, I read the synopsis first....why don't people read them..I mean really read them....instead of hoping that books will a long hoped for sequel!

I liked your review, and I can;t wait to read the book :)


message 41: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Catherine wrote: "I agree with you Mith....peolpe need to take each book as it's own, and not expect ot to be the same or in any way similar to any other book!!! Ihave it on my tbr list, and was planning to read it..."

Thanks Catherine! Looking forward to your thoughts about the book :)


Kayla I am going to be honest. I did pick up the book and buy it because it was Jo. I did suspect it was a murder mystery and was let down because it wasn't. So I came to Goodreads to look at the ratings to see if it was worth finishing. Your comment of the book has inspired me to finnish this long, and quite boring so far, book. Thank you.


message 43: by Mith (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mith Kayla wrote: "I am going to be honest. I did pick up the book and buy it because it was Jo. I did suspect it was a murder mystery and was let down because it wasn't. So I came to Goodreads to look at the ratings..."

Glad I could help, Kayla :)


message 44: by Ashli (new) - added it

Ashli I haven't read the Causal Vacancy nor do I own it yet but I do plan on it. (what can I say, I'm late to the game). I love Harry Potter, and thank you so much for the review. I completely agree with you. It annoys/ed the poop out of me every negative review I hear is because it's something about Harry Potter. Ugh. I'm going into knowing it's NOTHING like it and that it's an ADULT book.


Catherine you said it all Ashli! I totally agree! why can;t people take each book on it's own!?!?! it's really truly irritating!


Anthony Murphy Excellent review


message 47: by Lama (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lama Thank you for the review it's really helped :D


Callie Rose Tyler I disagree with #1, if you enjoy her writting you should read this book.


message 49: by Bloggeretterized (last edited Apr 03, 2013 04:15AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Bloggeretterized I was frustrated with this book, but reading your review helped me understand a lot of things. I am going to finish the book, but I'll take my time so I can enjoy JK's writting instead of reading it just to get throught with it. :)


message 50: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Cole Thanks for the advice!


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